Terms of Endearment

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Title: Terms of Endearment
Category: Humour
Rating: PG
Summary: Trip's relationship with another officer changes from hate-hate to love-hate... and all because of a game of snap.
Author's Note: Quite possibly the lousiest title/summary I've ever come up with. But I do still like the story! ;)

"We're playing what?"

"I've told you twice already." Deftly, Charles "Trip" Tucker finished dealing the cards, and picked up his own stack.

"Yes, but the first two times I refused to believe you. I'm still hoping this will turn out to be a bad dream. Something I can escape from."

Trip sighed. "Snap, Loo-tenant. We're playing snap."

Malcolm Reed looked annoyed. "And this is the height of American intellect these days? Snap?" He pronounced the last word as if it were something filthy, and not a card game. "Why not a proper card game, like poker?"

Trip chuckled. "Now, where's the fun in that?"

"With poker, I win."

"Scared of losin'?"

"Hell, no." Reluctantly, Malcolm picked up the cards in front of him. "But you'd better be."

"'Sides," Trip added, "I don't see the cap'n or sub-commander complainin', do you?"

"We didn't exactly have much choice in the matter," Jonathan Archer said with a small smile, also picking up his cards. T'Pol, on his other side, followed suit. "But I'm up for a little... variation every once in a while."

"I concur," T'Pol added serenely, holding her cards in a delicate-yet-firm grip. "It does not often do one good to be repeating the same tasks or activities over a length of time."

"Straight from the horse's mouth," Trip grinned, looking pointedly at Malcolm.

"Another human expression?" T'Pol asked him.

"Yep," Trip answered. "Meanin' you get the information right from the source instead of a dozen different places."

"I see."

Jonathan looked around at the motley group assembled in the captain's mess. Malcolm still looked peeved, Trip was still grinning, and T'Pol... well, she looked a little bored with the whole situation, but he thought he detected a small gleam of anticipation in her eyes. Most interesting.

Trip was now explaining the rules, mostly for the science officer's benefit. "You hold the cards face-down in your hand, like this," he informed her, showing her what he meant. She did so. "We then take it in turns to lay the top card down on the table, face-up. You see a matchin' pair of numbers one after the other, hit the top of the pile and yell 'snap'. Winner takes the cards to the bottom of their pile, and it continues. You lose your cards, that's it, you're out of the game, and have to watch. Winner's the person holdin' either all the cards or the most by the end, dependin' on time."

"Time?" she enquired.

"Sure," Jonathan said. "I once knew a game go on between Trip and his mother that took up a whole two days without a decisive victory."

"Hey," Trip protested half-heartedly. "Mama's a good snap player!"

"Oh, what civilised times we do live in," Malcolm muttered darkly. "Let's get this over with," he said to Trip. "I don't think I'll be able to cope with forty-eight hours of this."

"Hold on a minute," Jonathan said. "Who's dealing first?"

Trip pondered this for a moment. "Sub-commander?" he asked. "Will you do the honours?"

Slowly, T'Pol lifted the topmost card from her pile and placed it dead centre on the table, turning it over as she did so. Three of clubs. Jonathan was next. He was considerably quicker. Ace of spades. Malcolm was next, scowl firmly in place. Almost sullenly he dealt a nine of diamonds. Trip matched the captain's pace as he dealt his card. Nine of spades.

"Snap!" three officers yelled, almost simultaneously, their hands on top of each other. Carefully, they inspected the stack. Trip's hand was sandwiched firmly between Jonathan and T'Pol's. Hers was underneath. She was good. For her first game, she was very good. Reluctantly, the two men pulled back and allowed her to take her cards. A quick glance to his left told Jonathan that his armoury officer was regarding the whole situation with vague amusement, and very raised eyebrows.

"Now you deal again," Trip informed her.

Eight of clubs. Then a seven of clubs. Queen of diamonds. Jack of hearts. Two of spades. Ace of hearts. Ace of clubs.

"Snap!" To everybody's surprise it was Malcolm who pulled back the cards, now openly smirking. "Oh, what a shame," he told a dumbfounded Trip, "didn't I tell you I always play to win?" He then quickly laid down a king of clubs.

"Now that's your kinda card," Trip remarked, and laughed at Malcolm's monotonous expression. He then laid down the joker. "How on earth did that get in there?" he wondered, pushing it idly off the table's surface.

"Now there's a card representing you if ever I saw one, Commander," Malcolm retorted calmly, smirking as he picked the joker up off the floor and tucked it safely into his pocket.

Trip dealt again. Seven of spades. T'Pol, a queen of spades. Then an eight of hearts. Seven of hearts. Ten of spades. Jack of clubs. King of hearts. Ace of diamonds. Four of spades. Four of clubs.

"Snap!" This time, Trip was the victor, albeit very narrowly.

The game continued on in this vein for perhaps half an hour before Jonathan laid down his last card, a six of diamonds. "Looks like I'm out," he said. "I'm almost sorry," he added, looking from the chief engineer to the armoury officer with amusement. Both were regarding the other with narrowed eyes, leaned in towards the table, heads down and hands ready on their considerably-sized (and pretty much equal) decks. T'Pol was sporting a slightly smaller pile of cards, and Jonathan could tell she was also ready to resume playing.

Hmm. A competitive spirit. He wondered idly if that was a common Vulcan trait, or if the sub-commander was simply picking up a few of humanity's cleaner habits. He eventually decided on the former, recalling Ambassador Soval's repeated attempts to out-stare Trip at Starfleet functions in the past (it wasn't possible; this he knew from experience).

However, he was ignored as Malcolm laid down a three of clubs quicker than he thought was possible. Somehow Trip and T'Pol were able to match the pace as they laid down their cards in rapid succession, barely pausing to breathe, let alone talk, three pairs of eyes riveted on the growing pile of playing cards.

"Snap!" Jonathan had blinked, and had missed it. A veritable pile in the middle of the table, and three hands on top of each other. Malcolm looked smug as he removed the cards that were now rightfully his, and added them to his existing collection.

The other three officers were now moving so fast that it was all Jonathan could do to keep up with the suits, let alone the numbers. He suppressed a groan. He should have known it was a bad idea, letting three officers with superb reaction times loose on a game like this. A child's game, no less. The looks of utter concentration on their faces would have been funny if the tension in the room wasn't so tangible.

Diamond. Club. Spade. Spade. Snap. Spade. Heart. Club. Spade. Diamond. Diamond. Another spade. Snap. Heart.

Another ten minutes of near-frenzied playing, and T'Pol concurred. "I am finished," she stated, laying down the queen of diamonds.

"Better luck next time, eh, T'Pol?" Trip barely spared her a glance as he eyed Malcolm warily. The lieutenant responded in kind, tightening his already too-firm grip until the tips of his knuckles started to whiten.

Jonathan quickly checked the chronometer. They had been in there nearly two hours. Not quite up to the Tuckers' snap record, but not bad anyway.

Malcolm smiled icily in Trip's direction, a smile that sent shivers down Jonathan's spine. He knew that smile; it only appeared when Malcolm was completely sure of what he was doing, and usually when he was near his cannons. Trip would truly have to do something special to keep what remained of his pride and dignity intact, that was for sure.

The dealing began again. Heart. Club. Club. Diamond. Spade. Diamond. Spade. Heart. Diamond. Spade. Heart. Heart. Heart. Heart. Diamond. Spade. Spade. Club. Club. Still no pairs. He and T'Pol watched, both seemingly enthralled in the enmity flowing between the two men almost as much as the progress of the game itself.

Diamond. Club. Diamond. Diamond. The officers' hoards were depleting, and depleting fast. By the captain's estimate, whoever won the next hand would most likely win the whole game. It wasn't a certainty, but a very strong possibility nevertheless.

"Ready to give up yet?" Trip asked as the cards were dealt swiftly.

"Didn't you hear me before, Commander?" Malcolm asked, never taking his eyes off the cards in front of him. "I'm in this to win it now."

Spade. Heart. Diamond. The speed was increasing. Black card. Red card. Red. Red. Black. Black. Red. Black. Red. Black.

A few seconds later...


Jonathan could have sung out loud. Finally, the game looked like it was nearly over. He didn't mean to be bitter or anything about going out first, but he was acutely aware of the lack of sensation in the general area between the small of his back and the top of his legs. If he didn't move soon, he sorely doubted he'd be able to move at all. Which wouldn't be good at all.

But who had won? Or, should he say, who was about to win?

Trip grinned sheepishly. "Damn," he said apologetically. "Looks like we'll have to settle this score another time, won't we, Loo-tenant?"

"Absolutely," was the immediate reply. "Same time, next week?"

"You're on."

"I'll see you then, Commander."

"You'll need plenty of practice, my dear Loo-tenant."

For the first time in his life, Malcolm had lost a game of cards.

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